January 21, 2010

Loving life

Posted in la vie bordelaise tagged , , , , , , at 6:42 pm by Fat Girl Dancing

The most beautiful spiderweb

Within the last few weeks, I have really begun to love my life here in France.  Not so much the job, though there are still the occasional rewarding moments, generally I just try and get through it and get out.  But I love living in Bordeaux and being in France and meeting new people and the friends I’ve made.

For several months now I’ve been going to a language exchange group on Wednesday nights.  French people will come to sit at the English table with native English speakers and non-native French speakers will sit at the French table with native French speakers and have casual conversations to practice in a fun environment.  There is also a Spanish table and sometimes an Italian table.  Generally I sit at the English table, talking with French people who want to practice their English.  I have made some really great connections through this group, and it’s something I’ve come to look forward to on Wednesday nights.  Last night I sat at the French table for the first time to practice my French, and I was pleased that I could follow most of the spoken conversation and I was able to express myself fairly well (though still making some grammatical faults).  My French is definitely better than it was when I left the US.  It’s not where I’d like it to be (fluent), but the fact that I can see marked improvement is heartening.

I’m also enjoying spending time with the other English assistants (although that doesn’t really help me practice my French!)  Last weekend my friend Wes came from La Rochelle and brought one of his friends from Niort.  We had a good weekend of sight-seeing, and I think his friend from Niort will be coming back to visit again!

One of the British assistants had an impromptu tea yesterday afternoon that was absolutely lovely.

Tea time in Bordeaux

We had a mint tea made with freshly brewed mint leaves.  I really regretted that I could only stay an hour because I had to go down to a southern suburb for my tutoring job.

Tonight my roommate and I had some other assistants over for a small potluck to watch the week’s episodes of American Idol.  I made a baked macaroni and cheese, another assistant made chocolate chip banana bread, someone else made bruschetta, and my roommate bought Kinder Pingui.  There is too much good food in my life right now!

A lot of things in France are hard.  It hasn’t been an easy road to get to where I am now.  But I can honestly say: I’m in a good place, I’m happy, and I feel very blessed to have been given this opportunity!

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December 25, 2009

Happy Western Holiday of Your Choice!

Posted in la vie bordelaise tagged , , , , , , , at 5:12 am by Fat Girl Dancing

Today is Christmas, a day with important meaning for many people, but usually just a day of rest for me!  My normal tradition involves going to see a new release movie in the theatres and then eating sushi or Chinese food with friends, but here in France, NOTHING is open on Christmas Day; no movies, no restaurants.  I’m surprised to hear that the tramway is running.

The parents of another assistant are coming into town today, so my roommate and I are going over to her apartment for a Christmas dinner of raclette.  I took the plunge yesterday and baked my first batch of cupcakes here in France, so we’ll have those for dessert.  I absolutely love to make cupcakes from scratch, and at home I’ve experimented with a variety of different delicious flavors.  Here I’ve been so overwhelmed with the fact that 1) they don’t even understand the concept of a cupcake in this country; 2) the ingredients are hard to substitute (I accidentally used baking powder instead of yeast when trying to make rolls for Thanksgiving last month); and 3) the measurements are hard to convert.  With those three obstacles, I’ve been avoiding making cupcakes, even though it’s something that makes me happy.

After plans to travel over Christmas fell through, however, I decided to spend my free time experimenting with baking.  I used a nice, simple vanilla cupcake recipe and spiced it up for the holidays with a little nutmeg.  I bought a hand-crank mixer, and I have to say if I’m going to make any more cupcakes, I need to invest in a real electric mixer.  My hands just can’t take any more of that!

But the results were so worth it!

Vanilla nutmeg cupcakes

Vanilla nutmeg cupcakes

Now that I know it can be done, I hope to make a lot more interesting varieties and bring these treats in to share with my teachers!  I must introduce France to the cupcake!